Fabulous new book on Manchester United – contains archive pictures and great controversial input.
Manchester United FC has more supporters than any other soccer team in the world and has dominated the English game for a generation. The story of how this team from the industrial north of England rose to eclipse all its rivals and become what it is today is the subject of Clive Hindle’s book Only One United. Hindle, a practicing lawyer, who writes crime thrillers in his spare time, is a long-time MU supporter. If his book were one more rah-rah for United it would have limited appeal. Whenever United wins the UK media moans, Anyone but United! It’s the analysis of the team’s back story rather than its successes that makes the book interesting.
Between 1992 and 2013 United won the Premiership thirteen times and never finished outside the top three. But it hasn’t always been top dog. In the 70s and 80s Liverpool ruled, winning the First Division eleven times and the European Cup four times. In fact, Liverpool is the only English team that can boast of a record anywhere close to United’s. Yet, despite thirty-eight league titles and eight European Cups between them, the two teams have rarely been successful at the same time. Their rivalry goes deeper and further back to the beginning of the industrial revolution when the two cities duked it out for economic supremacy. In the 19th century Manchester dominated textile trade whereas Liverpool had the major port and controlled the shipping to North America.
It’s probably futile to compare MU’s recent successes with Liverpool’s from a generation earlier. For one thing, the amount of money in today’s game is simply staggering. Foreign billionaires now own many of the top English clubs. These sugar-daddy sponsors can easily afford the best. United’s story is somewhat different and it’s an interesting one. In 2005 US businessman Malcolm Glazer bought the club in leveraged-buyout deal. Most supporters believe the club got shafted because Glazer used Manchester United funds to broker the deal; money which might otherwise have been spent on players. Even ten years after the takeover a ‘Love-United-Hate-Glazer mentality persists with the fans. But leveraged buyouts, like most financial deals, are complex and not easily understood by laymen. Therefore, the media plays on what’s obvious and sensational. Interestingly enough, in the seasons following the takeover, Manchester United continues to thrive.
Manchester United has had many heroes. It’s unlikely the club could have performed as it did without Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, both of whom are regarded as two of the most successful, admired and respected managers in the history of the game. It’s easy to assign mythic status to these two men because of what they achieved, but like most of us, they have weaknesses and shortcomings. Many United players could rightly be called ‘world-class’ but only a few ever became celebrities. George Best was probably the world’s first cult icon. But as most soccer fans know, his extravagant lifestyle led to the problems which he suffered from for the rest of his life. David Beckham’s more-recent celebrity status easily surpasses Best’s. In 2002 Salon Magazine described him as “the biggest ‘metrosexual’ in Britain”. Ironically, Beckham is described in the book as being shy and retiring. As the author notes, the players who probably contributed most to United’s success (Bobby Charlton, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, for instance) preferred to concentrate on the game and shun media attention altogether.
Although Only One United is mainly an analysis of the club, there are many little-known facts on other top teams. As unlikely as it sounds, AC Milan, Italy’s most successful team, was founded by two English expatriates and it began life as the Milan Cricket and Football Club. The book contains a wealth of detail on many aspects of the game. It’s clearly written, objective, and should appeal to any soccer fan.